Brief History of Photography: Camera Obscura and Vermeer

But first, this. A different way of thinking about why we take photographs

Abelardo Morrell: Youtube

Abelardo Morell’s website.

The connection between lens making, photography and Vermeer:
David Hockney’s, A Secret Knowledge. You can find the entire documentary on Youtube. Here is Hockney on the Charlie Rose show

The book.

Not everyone agrees with Hockney’s thesis. Some counter arguments, here and here. The later one is perhaps the most valid because its author is a scholar. Hockney’s project has inspired further exploration and scholarship.

Jerry Spagnoli: contemporary daguerreotypist. A video presentation. His website.

BBC program: The Genius of Photography

George Eastman House on Flickr

“Tim’s Vermeer”a documentary by Penn and Teller (yes, THAT Penn and Teller) about one man’s obsession with discovering Vermeer’s secrets. Hint: camera obscura! Trailer | NY Times article

Camera Obscura made from natural elements


1997_001_Camera-Obscura-Image-of-The-Grand-Tetons-in-Resort-001.jpgMore Abelardo Morell | Above image is The Grand Tetons in the Resort Room, 1997

Short video detailing the Camera Obscura in San Francisco.

The Dyer Star Chamber at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee)

Great source (terrible design) all about camera obscura!

Site about custom camera obscura design.

Contemporary artists using camera obscura: 


Trudi Lynn Smith

Abelardo Morell Tent Camera Obscura in Big Bend National Park

Final Project Research


“Creation is an uncontrolled muscle” according to Arik Levy (born 1963).

Artist, technician, photographer, designer, video artist, Levy’s skills are multi–disciplinary and his work can be seen in prestigious galleries and museums worldwide. Best known publicly for his sculptures – such as his signature Rock pieces –, his installations, limited editions and design, Levy nevertheless feels “The world is about people, not objects.”

Hailing originally from Israel and moving to Europe after his first participation in a group sculpture exhibition in Tel–Aviv in 1988, Levy currently works in his studio in Paris.

His formation was unconventional where surfing, as well as his art and graphic design studio, took up much of his time back home. Following studies at the Art Center Europe in Switzerland he gained a distinction in Industrial Design in 1991.

After a stint in Japan where he consolidated his ideas producing products and pieces for exhibitions, Levy returned to Europe where he contributed his artistry to another field – contemporary dance and opera by way of set design.

The creation of his firm then meant a foray back to his first love, art and industrial design, as well as other branches of his talents. Respected for his furniture and light designs on all continents, Levy also creates hi–tech clothing lines and accessories for firms in the Far East.

Considering himself now more of a “feeling” artist, Arik Levy continues to contribute substantially to our interior and exterior milieu, his work including public sculpture, as well as complete environments that can be adapted for multi use. “Life is a system of signs and symbols,” he says, “where nothing is quite as it seems.”



I enjoy his work because the materials he uses distort what you are looking at. I find he uses his materials in different forms whether it being a closed form or a bunch of planes stuck together. I enjoy his pieces outside and love how they change throughout the day due to lighting.


Born 1985 in a small village in Canton Valais, Switzerland, surrounded by mountains, Sebastian Magnani discovered photography whilst training as a media designer in 2006. After 5 years as a creative in an advertising agency, he decided 2011 to turn his passion into a profession. Since then he has been making a living as a photographer, based in Zurich Switzerland. He currently works on various subjects and several free projects, like the «Underdogs» and «Undercats», where got a lot of media attention and been published on many newspapers, magazines, websites and tv-shows around the globe.


I enjoy his work because it takes one thing (the sky) and puts it somewhere else (the ground) which kind of makes you question what you are looking at and trying to imagine the environment. I feel like it causes a 2D photo experience to be more immersive as you actually what to know what is happening outside the frame.


Denise Riesen is an award-winning photographer with more then 16 years experience. Her work has varied in style and has evolved as she travels both physically around the world, and through the stages of her own life. Her work expands and alters that of a traditional scene into a complex visual interest. She enjoys the constant challenge of new ways of seeing and the creative output of self expression.

Denise has both studied and photographed extensively throughout the North America and Europe through personal travel and professional involvement. Her work has been shown in a number of galleries within the United States and Mexico. Denise has worked as a photo editor, and curator for a number of exhibits both in Chicago and New York City.

Denise currently works primarily as a freelance photographer and artist based in the Chicago area.


She gave me the idea of water being a reflective surface or a material to distort the surroundings for my photographs.

Final Thoughts

With ideas from these artists I also want to try working with tin foil, glass, mirrors, water, acetate, and cutlery to create a distorted perception of what the viewer is looking at while also creating a visually beautiful image.

Where Can I Buy Film?

I buy all my film-related things at B+H Photo. It’s in NYC so shipping can be an issue, but it’s free over $99 USD.  They have a huge selection new and used equipment.

B+H Photo Video

This is a link to other online resources.

Downtown Camera

Toronto Image Works


2710: The Book

Image from the Victoria and Albert Museum, collection of artist books

Ann Hamilton | Tropos


The Library of Babel, Jorge Luis Borges

Artist project as an infinite website:

Library of Babel as seen from within (Article in The Paris Review)

The Artful Accidents of Google Books [The New Yorker]

The Art of Google Books

Ed Ruscha: Various Small Fires and Milk

Ulises Carrion | exhibit | Video

Artist Books and Multiples

Multiples (in Amsterdam)

International Art Book Fair in Toronto


Artist book collection at The Smithsonian

Artist book Collection At The Victorian and Albert Museum

Reed College | Artist Book digital collection

A Brief History of Artists’ Books (Yale)—use the tabs at the top of the article to explore institutions and collections of artists’ books–great reference.

Collections of Artists’ Books

The Center for Book Arts [New York City]

Minnesota Center for Book Arts

San Francisco Center for the Book

Artists’ Book Online | An online repository of facsimiles, metadata, and criticism


Artist Book 3.0 (Where book artist talk shop online)

The Top 8 odd and outstanding artists’ books in Ryerson’s Special Collection

Altered Books at Pratt University

Water Yam | Artist book by George Brecht (Wikipedia entry)

Fluxus and how it relates to artists’ books

Blue Bananas

Image from Short Sharp Science: Bananas So Ripe, They’re Blue

As our semester long exploration of photography and colour comes to an end (waaaah) I want to share this web-based exploration of colour from National Public Radio.
LOOK AT THIS: This Is Color
Explore, enjoy and learn about blue bananas.


Photos from a comet. A COMET!

Image from the New York Times.

The European Space Agency did it! Philae has landed. On a comet! A comet!

People! A comet!

Read more here. (writing without excessive exclamation points)

The comet is very far away (duh) but this story has local connections. A University of Guelph Physics professor, Ralf Gellert, helped develop the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS), that will measure the comet’s elemental ingredients. You can read about Professor Gellert here and here.

And if you want to follow live feeds and videos and twitter updates, all that info is on the European Space Agency website.


Stacey Aspinall – Final Project Research: Light and Abstraction

Akihiko Miyoshi –


Bing Wright –

Newsprint Falling (19 Die)FLATBroken Mirror_Evening Sky

Uta Barthes –


Dan Flavin (not a “photographer,” but works with light) –


See also: Olafur Eliasson:

Dan Graham (Two Way Mirror series):

Mirrored Room by Lucas Samaras (1966) – anyone who went on the trip to the Albright-Knox Museum earlier in the semester had a chance to see this in person, and it’s a really unique experience.

Live! Art + Photo III—gestural inspiration


QUANTUM – Teaser from Cie Gilles Jobin on Vimeo.

Gilles Jobin was the 2012 artist-in-residence at the CERN* physics laboratory in Switzerland. He created an abstract dance piece inspired by concepts in particle physics. A brief description from this New York Times article.
“…dancers will begin with a subtle jiggling motion that evokes the vibration of subatomic particles, which could be seen as a sort of quantum twerk. Under crackling ambient music assembled from supercollider data by the composer Carla Scaletti, they begin to orbit and swarm, pulled by invisible forces like gravity and magnetism. The spectacle will be lit, somewhat ominously, by lamps that swing on motorized pendulums — a “lumino-kinetic sculpture” contributed by the German artist Julius von Bismarck. “You don’t have to know anything about physics, it’s not a demonstration or explanation of scientific concepts,” Mr. Jobin said. “Now that I know that everything is moving, that we are mostly made of emptiness, that our bodies are holding together with incredible forces, it feels different to move my body.

Don’t know what CERN is? My heart just died a little.
CERN is the European Center for Nuclear Research a world-wide science effort, where scientists probe the fundamental structure of the universe and ask questions like: What is the universe made of? and How did the universe start?

Final Project: Research

Rineke Dijkstra's Beach Portaits

Rineke Dijkstra’s Beach Portraits

For my final project, I’ve been looking into conceptual portraiture as it is the direction I’m intending on moving towards and as it is the type of photography which interests me the most. Creating a powerful concept that viewers can relate to through portraits of others and possibly additional elements interacting with the subjects to support the concept is my main goal. To me, photographs with subjects that convey a strong message are the most powerful photographs. Therefore, I’ve been researching different technical ways of shooting portraits including natural settings as well as constructed sets with studio lighting, while also being inspired by all the various concepts that have been experimented with and exhibited and by all the stories that are told through conceptual portraits.

Through looking for inspiration, I have come across a couple links that inspired my final idea. The links explore photographers who used various subjects to create a series of portraits that gave off a particular conceptual message to their audience.

Phillip Toledano’s Hope & Fear was one of the projects that was most inspiring to me as he used Surrealism to create highly unusual and interesting photographs which expressed his message loudly and clearly. The way Toledano expressed the meaning of his project was by stating that the project was a “is the external manifestation of internal desires and paranoia that are adrift in contemporary American society. What are we afraid of? What do we love? How does our society function, and what does it worship?”

Further explanation of Toledano’s conceptual, technical and formal methodologies including an interview with Toledano himself.

Another inspiring project by Phillip Toledano.

An online book that I thought was an interesting read involving all things portraiture: Portraiture by Shearer West. (Might require UoGuelph library log-in)

What Makes A Great Portrait?

More conceptual portraits:
‘Humanae’ Portraits Match People of Different Ethnicities With Their Pantone Color

Fascinating Portraits of Young People Out Clubbing In Rural Spain

Photos of Rural Children Around the World Dressed Up As Their Dream Professions

Disconcerting Portraits of People Wearing Origami Animal Masks

Portraits of Kids From A Deprived Area in the UK

Besides conceptual factors, Chris Levine’s use of light and colour in his photographs as well as in his exhibition were technical factors that were equally as inspiring to me.

If you are interested in portraiture as well and have access to the University of Guelph Library there are also several compelling photography books that I have found to really inspire my thought process. These include “Face: The New Photographic Portrait” by William A. Weing, “At Work” by Anne Leibovitz, “Close Up” by Katharina Sieverding, “Portaits in Series” by Kerber, “Contemporaries: A Photographic Series” by Judith Joy Ross and “Studio Photography: Essential Skills” by John Child for technical matters – all of which could be found in the TR section on the 5th floor of the library.